New Bill Roberts Assistant Principal Chi Onyewuenyi. Photo by: Sarah Huber
After teaching in Denver Public Schools for 17 years, including six in elementary classrooms at William “Bill” Roberts, Chi Onyewuenyi is now one of two Roberts’ assistant principals, with an emphasis on middle school climate and culture.
Onyewuenyi, known affectionately as “Ms. O,” brings a lifelong love of learning to the position, as well as a teacher’s perspective to the administration.
“I got into this because I love school, I love to learn and I love to see kids learning,’’ she says.. “That’s why I just kept learning, becoming a teacher and then continuing.”
Katheryn Keyes remains as the school’s assistant principal overseeing climate and culture for the elementary grades. Former assistant principal Erik Cohen moved to Aurora Public Schools last spring.
Onyewuenyi, a Denver native, graduated from George Washington High School before receiving a bachelor’s in psychology at the University of Colorado Denver.
“My parents were Nigerian immigrants who came here for education, and education was something my family always valued,” she says.
A mother of four children, Onyewuenyi was pursuing a career as a school psychologist when her oldest child’s unique learning style gave her pause.
“Watching her made me want to be part of kids’ learning in a hands-on way,” she says.
Onyewuenyi earned her teaching license from California State University, Fresno and was hired as a kindergarten teacher in DPS before moving to Bill Roberts as a first- and then a third-grade teacher. Last year she completed her master’s degree in education at Regis University.
“After teaching for so long, I wanted to be part of the decision-making process,” she says. “What I really want to do is to see and ensure that all kids are learning and thriving, not just in my classroom, but in the whole school.
“Now I can have a greater impact.”
The first person of color to hold a leadership position at Bill Roberts, Onyewuenyi hopes to share her “personal sense of a feeling of belonging here at Bill Roberts” with each student.
“You can’t learn where you don’t feel comfortable,” she says. “My vision is that everyone will feel like this is their school and a safe place.”
Onyewuenyi believes Bill Roberts’ social-emotional curriculum is crucial to the school’s vision of equity and said she is partnering with teachers “to make sure our teaching is data-driven.
“It makes a difference that we’ve been working together as teachers. I am never going to ask them to do something that I know is not possible.”